By Brian Wheeler

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Residents in the County’s Flordon, Candlewyck, and Ivy Creek neighborhoods look at the fire hydrants in their front yards and think how ironic it would be if the fire trucks didn’t arrive in time to use them to extinguish a house fire.  Even worse, if they didn’t arrive in time to save a life.


Broomley Road railroad bridge

is in between the approximately 140 homes in the area and any emergency responders.  The one-lane wooden bridge has a load limit of 8 tons, far below the 24 ton weight of the County’s first response fire trucks.

At their meeting Wednesday, the

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

voted unanimously to reallocate $1.6 million in transportation funding towards the replacement of the bridge.  The preliminary cost estimate to build a new bridge, including roadway approaches, is $4 to $5 million.  Full funding to start construction is not expected to be available until 2017.

“Making the bridge safe is what we need,” said Flordon resident Bill Gray in an interview.  “We can’t get fire trucks over it and we feel our safety is threatened. The 20 minute difference in getting to us can make a difference between life and death.”  Gray told the Supervisors at the public hearing that replacing the bridge “is a matter simply of safety.”

Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker (Jack Jouett) previously recommended allocating funds to the bridge project

at a meeting in April

when the Six Year Secondary System Construction program priorities were first under review.  He suggested the board take some state funding intended to pave and upgrade portions of Dickerson Road and apply it to the Broomley Road bridge project instead.

“I have had several fire department staff tell me it is the worst delay situation in the County,” said Rooker in an interview.

The current bridge is owned by CSX and leased to the Buckingham Branch Railroad which is obligated to maintain it.  Neighbors have found their travel disrupted by the closing of the bridge on multiple occasions in the past two years.  In 2007, the bridge was hit by a passing train and damaged.  In August of this year, the bridge was closed for deck repairs.

Thomas Albo, a resident of the Far Hills neighborhood

Thomas Albro lives in the Far Hills neighborhood and he spoke at the public hearing to urge the board to allocate funds to the project.

“I have driven over that bridge pretty much every day, at least twice a day, for the better part of thirteen years,” said Albro.  “I can tell you it is more or less chronically in a state of disrepair.”

VDOT’s local administrator,

Allan D. Sumpter

, said in an interview that the Board’s action would help move the project forward and that a new design would addresses the neighbors’ concerns.

“The new bridge has to meet current design requirements.  It will need to be two lanes wide and some improvements will need to be made to achieve vertical clearance [for the railroad].  The standard is also that we also allow for an additional [railroad] track to be added underneath.”

The reallocation of funds does not come without some risk for Albemarle County.  According to Sumpter, there is no unpaved road funding for Albemarle in the next six years.  In the event the state restores funding in 2017 or later, he said Albemarle’s allocation could be lowered by about $105,000.

“Albemarle gets 2.8% of the unpaved road money in Virginia, they are in the top-10 statewide,” said Sumpter.  “The project they are taking this out of is about 2 miles long, and since they were expected to use the money to lower the number of miles of unpaved roads, there needs to be an equalization.”

“I am delighted with this shuffling of money around,” said Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller).  “We just need very much to tell people this is not enough money.  I think it is a good time to do it because I think there is preliminary engineering work that is needed [to address site issues].”

“There is not enough money at the state level,” said Thomas.  “The state is strangling our communities because they will not put enough money into the roads in our state.”


Interested in what we're working on next? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss a story.